Aquino told former President’s EO legalized armed groups
DAVAO CITY—Mindanao-based nongovernment organizations are calling on President Aquino to revoke an executive order issued by his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, that the groups said allowed private armies to thrive especially in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Arroyo, now detained for an electoral sabotage case, issued Executive Order No. 546 in August 2006 allowing the use of armed village watchmen for local peace and order campaigns.
The EO also allowed mayors and governors to set aside funds from their local governments to finance the operations of the armed watchmen.
The groups, which came together under a coalition called Free Coco Tulawie Movement, said the Arroyo EO gave legal cover for private armies that political clans, like the Ampatuans of Maguindanao province and the Tans of Sulu province, used to amass wealth, intimidate their enemies and keep themselves in power.
The movement is named after a Mindanao politician turned human rights activist accused of involvement in an attempt to assassinate Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan.
The movement said in a statement that while the Ampatuan army has been greatly reduced in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre, that of Tan continues to wreak havoc in Sulu. Tan “is the very cause of the state of unpeace in Sulu,” the movement said.
In a statement, the Sulu governor said the movement’s accusation is “ancient” and bereft of merit.
The movement said Tan used the Arroyo EO to enforce an ID system in Sulu “in the guise of helping combat terrorism, but which was heavily protested for being discriminatory” against Muslims.
Mr. Aquino should disarm Tan’s private army and immediately revoke EO 546, said the movement’s statement signed by professor Jukipli Wadi of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Islamic Studies, Ismael Maulana of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, professor Alih Aiyub of the group Salam, the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines and other Mindanao civil society leaders.
In his statement, Tan said contrary to the accusations against him, he was a peacemaker in Sulu. “All (my) political adversaries before are now standing as one to bring development in Sulu,” he said.
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